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Purple Martin Housing information

The Purple Martin is North America's largest swallow. Weighing in at around 48 grams the adult purple martin has a wingspan of about 15" and is about 7 1/2 to 8 inches long. Famous for their graceful flight and voracious appetite for insects, purple martins eat and drink completely while flying. As migratory songbirds, the purple martin spends winters in South America and returns in the spring to nest. The breeding range of purple martins is as far South as Florida all the way up to Canada. East of the Rocky Mountains, purple martins will only nest in homes we put up for them.
Realizing that you want purple martins to nest in your backyard is the first step in what can become a wonderful way to be an active part of conservation, get closer to nature and carry on an age old tradition of providing a place for purple martins to nest.
The first part to getting purple martins to select your site is LOCATION.

Remember to be realistic about the locations you have in mind to place a Martin house. Keep in mind that if you have a Homeowners Association, you may have to check with your HOA to see if having a bird house is allowed.

Ask yourself, Where is the most open area on your property? Sometimes a backyard may NOT be the most Purple Martin friendly habitat. Would you consider placing the purple martin bird house on your front lawn?

These are some basic parameters that you can use as a guide.
(Though there are many exceptions in real life.)

1.Martin housing should be at LEAST 40 feet from trees...preferably more, though in the 'South' it is said that Martins are not as preoccupied with this.

2. Housing should be no further than 120 feet from your home. And as close as 30 feet. My philosophy is keep it on the closer side. You will enjoy your birds more and they actually benefit from the added protection we provide.

3. The purple martin housing itself should be AT LEAST 10 feet up in the air or more. Though once established, within a colony, they will tolerate lower heights.

4.Keep shrubbery away from the bottom of the martin housing

Types of Purple Martin Housing

1. Houses
2. Gourds

Purple Martin Houses


Look nice!
MANY different styles to choose from.
Several different types of construction material

Many inferior types of houses on the market.
Some higher quality houses can be quite pricey
Harder grow your colony without adding another house
Male purple martins will dominate more than one compartment if the doors are close together.

Purple Martin GOURDS

Birds seem to love them.
Some think gourds look like lawn art!
Can be quite roomy inside.
Less domination of multiple compartments by 1 male.
Countless variations and combinations.
Natural gourds are budget friendly.
Natural gourds are very light weight.

Not as "compact" as a traditional house.

There are natural gourds and plastic artificial gourds. It is recommended that all gourds have access ports for easy cleaning and nest checks. We now use only plastic gourds as natural gourds require quite alot of maintaning and can crack and break easily.

TYPES of Purple Martin bird houses
1. Plastic
2. Wood
3. Aluminum
How We Feel About PLASTIC Purple Martin bird houses

The least expensive way to start trying to attract Purple Martins.
The lightest -which may or may not be a consideration.
Easy to modify rooms.

Not meant to last.
May look the least expensive-which you may or may not care about.
Sunlight (UV rays) can degrade the plastic over a period of time. This can make the plastic brittle and translucent. If light is able to enter the house it will increase the temperature and can lead to premature fledging and loss of birds.
A perfect analogy is you get what you pay for
You'll find peoples opinions on plastic housing is quite heated.

WOOD Purple Martin bird houses

Excellent natural insulation.
Can be a fun do it yourself project-for the handy-person.
Environmentally friendly and look nice too.

Heavy as sin.
Needs occasional repainting to protect wood.
Also need tools if modifications are needed.
Be forewarned-DIY does not mean less expensive. If you do want to make your own purple martin house, check out the purple martin bird house we have found.

Aluminum Purple Martin bird houses

Light weight.
Some fairly inexpensive options.
Lots of options available to choose from.

Poor insulative properties.
Not all aluminum houses are the same, some are inferior in quality and options.

If you still don’t know what type of martin housing you want to offer, look at your budget and what appeals to you-esthetically.

Purple Martin POLES:
Wood, Steel or Aluminum? Square or Round? Pulley, Winch or Telescopic?

The purple martin pole may well be one of the most over looked and under appreciated ingredients, when it comes to hosting Purple Martins. A cheap pole may save you money initially but will not last as long as a better quality pole.
There are 2 things you should consider when choosing a pole.

1. How heavy will your housing be?
2. What is your budget?

Why is weight an important consideration? Because if you know you want to have a large heavy wooden house and/or you can't lift heavy objects(bad back?) Then you can cross a telescopic pole right off your list. Conversely, if you choose a smaller aluminum house and are able bodied a telescopic pole may be a budget friendly option for you.

A pre manufactured heavy duty pole with all the bells and whistles can run you a couple hundred bucks. That’s a big price tag for a pole. If you don't feel like paying that much for a pole, then your dreams of a huge 24 gourd system are just that...a dream.

Less expensive telescopic aluminum poles start at about $80.00. Also, if you are the Do-It-Yourself kind of person, you could rig a pole yourself. Just make sure that lowering and raising the pole NEVER changes the directional orientation of the individual compartments. For example; if compartment "A" faces North, then it must always face North. Purple Martins are very sensitive to this and may abandon a nest if it changes its orientation.

Winch vs Pulley vs Telescopic

Winch:< /B> These poles have a small handle that you crank to raise and lower the housing. Easy on the back. They usually have a safety mechanism that keeps the housing from falling down on your head if you accidentally let go of the winch handle.
Usually the most expensive option.

Pulley: A rope that attaches to a pulley at the top of the pole is used to lower and raise the housing. The ropes can sometimes come off the pulley-which means the house will be stuck-a very bad thing. Also the ropes can fray and if not noticed, can eventually break-also a very bad thing. Also be aware if the rope is accidentally let go of, the house can come falling down. Usually on top of your head. Some poles of this type come with a safety pin that you leave in place until the house is down to just above head level. Then the pin is moved and you can lower the house the rest of the way. If they don't come with this feature, it is an easy DIY task. You should never stand directly under the housing when raising or lowering.

Telescopic: A pole within a pole within a pole. You raise up the poles, by hand, one section at a time. Care must be taken on round telescopic poles, that the house is kept facing the exact same way and that the pole is not extended beyond the length of the pole. (Trust us this happens!)
These poles are not suitable for heavy housing not only due to the difficulty in raising and lowering but the stress load on the pole itself. The least expensive option.


All poles that utilize a rope or cable MUST be inspected regularly or SERIOUS injury can result. Ropes and cables do and will fray and snap. Replace cables as needed.

Also remember that all housing should be lowered in case of severe weather to prevent damage to housing and the pole. (No pole is 100% bend proof.) And NEVER lower a pole when lightning is in the area! features purple martin houses and purple martin gourd racks that combine a great selection of housing options pre-matched with poles to assure the proper combination of strength and value.
Feel free to contact us for any questions you may have.

Article © 2008

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